When it comes to politics, one hidden rule tends to dominate South African debate, to the extent that it is almost hegemonic in the depth and breadth of its hold over public analysis: false moral equivalence. It manifests primarily with regard to any comparison between the ANC and DA. In generic terms, the line is this: “Yes, the ANC has problems, but the DA has problems too — and thus, a pox on both their houses”. Either that, or: “Given both parties are morally flawed, best to support the ANC purely for pragmatic reasons — it is bigger, mostly likely to win and so, while compromised, best to invest in its potential reformation.” But it hasn’t always been like this. The phenomenon that was Jacob Zuma’s ruinous tenure makes the point. He was swept to power with a super-majority. In his wake he consolidated the alliance behind him, rode a tidal wave of popular sentiment and, as a result, his grip on the ANC and the national administration bordered on absolute. However, although the c...

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